Woolworths employee 'kicks out Asian customer' over coronavirus fears

Brooke Rolfe
News Reporter

A Woolworths shopper has claimed a staff member “aggressively” ordered customers of Asian appearance out of a store over fears they were infected with the deadly coronavirus.

A woman claimed on Twitter her friend witnessed the disturbing event at a Woolworths store in Port Hedland, in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, on Friday – the same day the World Health Organisation declared the virus a global health emergency.

The issue was raised with the retail giant on Twitter, and it was claimed the staff member celebrated after successfully removing the Asian-looking shopper from the store.

The employee allegedly ordered the Asian shopper out of the store. Source: Google Maps/Tu Iuqman Hakim

“What happens if a member of your staff aggressively removes a shopper of Asian descent from your store and prevents other Asians then regales the tale as if they are a hero preventing coronavirus to other customers?” The woman wrote in a tweet after her friend made the allegations.

She later updated the post explaining that she too had experienced what she believed to be discrimination due to her Asian appearance.

“I get sideways glances and looks of nervousness if I'm out in public without my husband these days. I have never been to China. I worry what if my allergies play up and what will happen or if something triggers my asthma. I shouldn't have to,” she said.

Others slammed the Woolworths employee’s alleged actions as “unacceptable”, “awful” and “really disgusting”.

Chinese customers wearing face masks at a supermarket. Source: AAP

“That's awful. I'm so sorry this is happening. People can be terrible,” another said.

The woman who posted the original tweet said a complaint to the store, and was later told an investigation had been commenced.

She claimed an employee said CCTV footage had been reviewed of the confrontation and that the staff member involved had been identified.

“We're very concerned about this and take incidents like this seriously,” a reply from Woolworths read.

A Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia it wanted “everyone to feel welcome in our stores and sincerely regret this wasn't the case on this occasion”.

“We have spoken to the customer who brought this matter to our attention and apologised for this unacceptable behaviour,” the spokesperson said.

“We're conducting a full investigation into the incident and will take appropriate action to address it in line with our workplace policies.”

The incident of apparent racism in the wake of the coronavirus crisis does not seem to be isolated, with a young Chinese boy being chased and cornered at school by classmates ‘testing’ him for coronavirus.

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